The Urban Mole
It’s 2020, and cities are so overcrowded that it’s impossible to deliver packages. UPS trucks have nowhere to double-park, and obnoxious bike messengers can’t even ride on pedestrian-jammed sidewalks. How, then, can important parcels reach their destinations in a squalid megalopolis of the future?
Through the sewers, of course.
The brainchild of designer Phillip Hermes, the Urban Mole is a capsule that travels through existing networks of underground pipes in order to transport packages as diverse as groceries, signed documents and any title that appears on Oprah’s Book Club. The Mole frees up our streets and roads for important matters, like mobilizing armies against the cyborgs that will inevitably plague our future cities.
Able to move parcels as large as a shoebox, the Mole fully encapsulates its contents from surrounding wastewater. In other words, the phrase “duty free shipping” will take on a whole new meaning.
The Urban Mole placed second in the VisionWorks contest, a logistics competition sponsored by Bayer MaterialScience — yes, they spell it one word like that — that asked participants to envision transportation solutions for 2020. The Urban Mole came in second to a building that grows food on its walls. Yeah, that’s cool, but it’s no undergound robot.
According to VisionWorks, “The pipe system is structured like a road network – the more traffic, the bigger the pipe.” Electric rails within the pipes provide juice for the Mole’s motors in a system that works like a miniature subway. Still more pipes run from drop-off points to delivery centers called MoleStations — again with the one-word construction — where customers can retrieve their items locally. The designer estimates that the average cross-town delivery could take place in less than ten minutes.
We like to think of the Urban Mole as a combination of Mr. McFeeley and the Ninja Turtles, skulking through sewers only to emerge when it can be of use to human civilization. But we pity the poor guy who has to open those capsules.